When an individual hotel becomes more expensive, it becomes more expensive for the hotel chain (Starwood, Hilton Hotels, etc.) to pay the individual hotel for that room when someone books it on points. This is why we see hotel chains regularly change a hotel’s award category – it is supposedly based on demand and actual hotel prices. Starwood usually makes their changes at this time of the year, and they’ve just announced the updated hotel categories that will take affect on March 4, 2014. About 20% of SPG hotels are changing categories; of those changes, 56% are moving down a category while 44% are moving up. You can see the full list of hotels here.
In my opinion, these changes are actually extremely mild. There will always be individual cases where changes work out better or worse for particular people, but these changes seem pretty favorable overall.
I haven’t written a Beginners Guide to SPG yet, but keep in mind that SPG hotels are generally best for redeeming Categories 1-5 (2,000 to 12,000 points). Categories 6 (20,000/night) and 7 (30,000/night) require a much higher amount of points. The increase from Category 5 to 6 is 40%, and from Category 6 to 7 is another 50%, so I don’t really recommend redeeming SPG Points for Category 6 and 7 hotels unless you have tons of them laying around.
So with that in mind, here are the category changes that stand out to me:
Hotels Moving Down a Category
- Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Darling Harbour – From Category 5 to 4
- The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali – From Category 5 to 4
- The St. Regis Beijing – From Category 6 to 5
- The Westin Tokyo – From Category 6 to 5
You’ll notice that a lot of hotels in China and India went down a category. Surprising to me was also several hotels in Bali, the Westin Tokyo, and Four Points Sydney went down. It’s always a positive thing when you can drop a category in expensive cities like Sydney and Tokyo, and more so when it drops to a category 5.
Hotels Moving Up a Category
- Le Méridien Taipei – From Category 5 to 6
- Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens – From Category 5 to 6
- W Los Angeles – Westwood – From Category 5 to 6
- W San Francisco – From Category 5 to 6
- Sheraton Waikiki – From Category 5 to 6
- Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa – From Category 5 to 6
- The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali – From Category 5 to 6
- W Austin – From Category 5 to 6
- The St. Regis Rome – From Category 6 to 7
Nothing huge or extra shocking here, but several hotels in Hawaii become much more expensive along with several W hotels in big US cities. Hotels in Athens also seem to be hit pretty hard. Again, the jump from Category 5 to 6 is a 40% increase in the points required (12,000 to 20,000).
While this isn’t a devaluation, there’s no doubt it could hurt some people. Many others will think this is a positive change. If you have a lot of SPG points and have some trips planned, I recommend you book award nights before these changes take effect on March 4, 2014. Almost all SPG awards can be cancelled up until the few days before arrival, so go a head and make those “just in case” bookings.
The only one I plan on making is at the Sheraton Garden Grove – Anaheim hotel at the very end of the year. I generally use this hotel to make mattress runs if I need an extra few nights because it was convenient to where I live and cheap at 3,000 SPG points for a weekend night. I’ll make several reservations in December in case I need to use them since it’s free and since I have enough points.
Anyway, happy travels!